An e-book reader for every EU official? And how about inefficient meetings

 

This article was first published on the Online EU Training blog

Waste is present even where we don’t see it: just look at two everyday issues in European institutions (or at any large government administration) like document printing and staff meetings. Apply a bit of numerical reasoning to quantify it, and be surprised.

Ebook Reader

Apart from the huge environmental and budgetary damage that “print-read-throw away” documents create, European Union institutions must also carefully respect tax payer citizens’ money. So why not have a small trade-off and lead by example?
Let’s do a bit of math: in the EU, there are about 40,000 officials working in various locations around Europe and the world. Policy proposals, white papers, green papers, impact assessments, internal memos and millions of other documents are created every day, leading to approximately 30 printed pages per employee per day (also including social security filings, contracts, personal letters and newspaper printouts etc.). On average, we can count at least 200 working days for each agent, meaning that each EU worker prints approximately 6000 pages a year (sounds too much? just think of the 1200-page draft EU budget being printed and sent to hundreds of officials). Even if we only count the ink/paper cost, we can assume a 0.05 EUR cost per page (not including the printers, electricity and other overheads), so this creates a cost of 300 EUR per employee per year. That’s quite an amount, only for printing!
Now compare this with the latest e-book readers that are available from Amazon, Sony and various other companies for less than 200 EUR one-time fee. If 70% of the printed documents can simply be converted into a PDF and read it on the e-book reader, the investment pays off in a year.
An e-book reader for every EU official?
Or consider the waste in the form of lost productivity by convening a unit meeting. In an average unit at the European Commission or the European Parliament, there are at least 20 people. Assume that 15 of them attend a 1.5 hour weekly meeting even though all desk officers could create a 5-line summary of their activities and questions on a shared online workspace in 5 minutes, and save 1.5 hours of time as a result. Assume that the average salary across the unit is 3000 EUR per month per person. This means that one day of a month equals 3000/20=150 EUR of wage. With a 7.5 hour working day, it is 20 EUR per person per hour. So if the unit meeting lasts 1.5 hours and includes 15 members, this means 22.5 times 20 = 450 EUR of lost productivity every week, in a single, simple unit of 15 people. Now multiply this by 2000 to cover all 40,000 EU officials.
Fighting inefficiency is not hard. With some calculation, common sense and a bit of awareness, it pays off…eventually.

 

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